Night Train Seizure
The Night Train Drug Seizure was a December 1977 seizure of 54 tons of marijuana by the United States Coast Guard off the southeastern coast of Florida which marked the beginning of Operation Stopgap, a United States federal law enforcement inter-agency drug interdiction operation focusing on interdicting drugs from Colombian cartels and other illicit Central and South American drug sources. The Night Train seizure was the largest single drug seizure in history at the time it occurred, and it remains one of the largest marijuana seizures made in the territorial waters of the United States.
Operation Stopgap was one of the first inter-agency law enforcement efforts focused on the interdiction of illegal drugs from Central and South America, and it featured personnel of the Coast Guard, DEA and US Federal Marshals Service working together, as well as the resources of the Intelligence Section of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Coast Guard Intelligence (CGI).
The Night Train was a 189-foot coastal cargo vessel that had become legendary in the law enforcement community and smuggling circles due to its repeated ability to elude US law enforcement for almost two years before they were finally captured off of West Palm Beach as the first seizure of Stopgap. Operation Stopgap was but the first of a number of highly successful inter-agency intelligence and interdiction operations that led to a large number of successful seizures and prosecutions in the late 1970s and early 1980s, garnering the U.S. Coast Guard considerable press coverage during this period as seizure records continued to be broken. Stopgap was also one of the earliest interdiction operations to effectively use satellite technology in the pursuit and interdiction of drug smugglers.
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- “Name Of Pot-Laden Ship Sounded Familiar To Coast Guard”. Miami News. December 11, 1977.
- “Marijuana Seizure Was Largest Haul On Record”. Lakeland Ledger. Florida. April 20, 1978.
- “The Battle Against Drugs Takes to the Seas: High Seas Drama When the Night Train was Seized by the Coast Guard”. U.S. News and World Report. Vol. LXXXIV. March 27, 1978. pp. 69–71.
- “DEA and Coast Guard Could Almost Track Drug Ship By The Smell”. St. Petersburg Times. July 11, 1978.
- “Operation Stopgap”. The Spokesman Review. September 16, 1978.
- “Operation Stopgap Nails The Legendary Night Train”. St. Petersburg Times. July 11, 1978.
- “Satellites Aiding In Pot Seizures”. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. July 11, 1978.